Scene 1: Interior, Day.
Olim meminisse juvabit. The Latin tag swam lazily to the surface from the depth of his subconscious. One day we will look back and rejoice. He chuckled at the irony of that particular piece of Ovid coming to mind at this time. He was more used to quoting the 'dirty bits'. The doubtful benefits of a classical education. Reaching for the whisky, he reflected how his life was full of little ironies these days. It wasn't just a case of another marriage going sour; it was the timing of it.
At the very moment he believed he had finally arrived, climbed to the top of that greasy pole, the ceiling fell in. First the promotion, then the divorce; the twin impostors encountered sequentially. It brought to mind a cartoon that showed a satyr chasing a nymph and bore the caption 'It's just one fucking thing after another.' He sighed. "Well, there's nothing I can do about it now." The sound of his voice was loud in the empty house.
"Yah!!" He shouted into the silence. "Yah ARGHH!!!" The wordless bellow died and he felt a little better. "More scotch," he staggered to the sideboard to clutch the bottle like a lifeline. He pondered this image. 'I am drowning' he thought then aloud, "drowning my sorrows". This, too, he found ironic. He didn't usually drink. It was his wife - more accurately now his ex-wife - who liked to have her evening 'relaxer'. "Anything you can do, I can do better" His voice was cracked and harsh, redolent with pain. So he started to laugh but it sounded to him like sobbing.
Time passed. The shaft of sunlight falling into the room moved slowly to one side then disappeared. The streetlights came on and still he sat, sometimes mumbling but mostly silent. In his silence he remembered.
There was no fixed chronology. However hard he tried to impose some order, memories came at random. The last weeks, ten years ago, twenty. He gave up struggling and allowed his mind to wander where it would.
The party. He had first her met at the party. She had been eighteen. He called up images of that bright room, the dancing couples and the joyous music. Some spark had struck and quickly grown to flame. They danced extravagantly, eyes locked, oblivious of all others. It was like the mating ritual of cranes. The images of dance dissolved and now he saw them walking on beach. In Crete, he thought but wasn't sure. There had been many beaches. She was barefoot. Her sandals dangled from long fingers. His large, square hand held hers and he marvelled at her beauty as the sun set, suffusing everything with a soft, rose light.
The scene shifted. He saw their first home together. A Victorian terrace in a shabby side street. It had felt like a palace at the time. He saw himself coming through the front door and felt rather than saw her rushing to greet him, coltish, dizzy, in love. How happy she sounded recounting her day at the Estate Agents where she worked.
They had celebrated each little victory, each milepost on the road to his success. She gave up her job, toyed with education but lacked the perseverance. She adapted well to leisure.
He remembered them fighting, her face drawn mean and shrewish by anger, his own voice rising until cut off by the punctuation of her slap. He remembered when he discovered she was left-handed and how she said this was sign of superior intelligence. Then she had laughed, rich and full. She did nothing by halves; certainly not making love. And then he saw her again, sprawled across their bed; wild, wanton.
He could picture her body. Long legs smooth as satin, the clipped triangle of dark blonde hair. He remembered her breasts and how he would suckle for hours. She had loved that. He felt he could taste her now although his mouth was thick with the fumes of scotch. The ache inside him grew until he cried.
Scene 2: A Different Interior, Evening.
She sat at her dressing table draped in silk. She could hear her new lover singing in the shower but her thoughts kept slipping to that other, older love. 'The Square Man', as she thought of him. His frame, his hands, his face, all square. She thought, too, of his foibles. The endless quotations of Latin and Greek - as if anyone could understand these days! As if anyone cared! She snorted. It was typical of the man! He was so easy for others to lampoon. Everything by the book. He mastered anything he put his mind to in the same way.
A new craze, a new hobby and suddenly there would be a dozen, twenty new books. Like the way he learned French. Grammatically perfect, the Academie Francaise would have been delighted. The effect was totally ruined by the execrable English accent. If it was possible to learn something from a book, he could do it. Yet nothing was natural, somehow. All technical excellence but no originality. You can't learn that from a book, however good. Like his love-making. Always between twenty six and twenty eight minutes of foreplay. She could time him. And always the same pattern. Kisses to start followed by the cupping of her breast. A steady progression to sucking her nipples. Never less than eighteen minutes before any contact with her clitoris. Lovemaking must happen always ith a minimum of two positions but these, too, appeared contrived, book-learned. She was to have three orgasms before he could let go.
Oh sure, he was gentle and considerate but where was the passion? Why didn't he understand that she didn't always need to come? She would have loved it if he had just once embraced the concept of a 'quickie', simply for the joy of difference. Sometimes she would have traded any number of climaxes for a touch of spontaneity. Her new lover, on the other hand, was entirely selfish. He took her with a passion bordering on violence. He didn't give a damn whether she came or not, frequently entered her before she was properly ready. He laughed at her protests, saying something about 'taking the rough with the smooth.' He was coarse, he was crude but it was exciting.
As a consequence, she responded with bigger, deeper orgasms that wracked her whole body and left her glowing. It had been years since the Square Man had made her glow.
She regarded herself in the mirror. Not bad for thirty-eight. The merest hint of lines around the eyes. No excess weight but she had found the odd grey hair lately and plucked it savagely. No children, of course. They had decided early on to wait and somehow... She was grateful now. Nothing 'messy' to consider in the divorce. The Decree Nisi had arrived that morning. Uncontested, of course. Irredeemable breakdown, they had called it. He was too old-fashioned, too much the 'gentleman' to brand her an adulteress.